As of February 23, 2002, the CDC reported 76,936 cases of coronavirus disease in mainland China (Jernigan, et al., 2020). The disease is caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which has spread to 31 other countries, including the United States. As of the date the report was published, 2,462 deaths had been attributed to the outbreak. Since then, multiple cases of infection have occurred in many different states within the United States. At least two cases had no known source of exposure. This suggests that the disease is spreading through communities. The very young, the very old, people with respiratory disorders, and people with a chronic and debilitating disease are the most susceptible to infection and its complications. Healthy adults tend to have milder disease, yet they can still spread the infection.
Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with soap (an emulsifier) and clean water periodically on general principle and any time they have come in contact with objects other people have handled. If the means to wash your hands is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Then wash your hands at the earliest opportunity.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose
It is essential that you cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. The droplets of moisture expelled can spread out as far as six feet and subsequently circulate in the air. Bacteria and viruses can survive for hours in these droplets. People can pass through them and inhale them long after someone has coughed or sneezed into open air and never know they have been exposed. When among a crowd of people, keep a tissue over your mouth and nose until the density of people has diminished. As a general rule, six feet is the minimum safe distance between people.
Disinfect Commonly Used (Communal) Surfaces
Many surfaces harbor bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms – some of which are benign and some of which can cause disease in a susceptible host. Most bacteria can survive for months on surfaces (Kramer, et al., 2006). Most respiratory viruses, such as the coronoa and influenza virus, can persist for up to a day (Greatorex, et al., 2011). Consider wiping communal items used frequently by many people, including yourself, with an antiseptic cleanser.
Common surfaces include telephones, remote control devices, door knobs and handles, light switches, computer keyboards, money, and other items we take for granted. Many community and commercial business have items people will exam prior to deciding whether or not to acquire them. Hence the need to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your face.
If You Are Sick
If you are sick with a respiratory illness – from a simple cold to influenza to the corona virus, use the following precautions to prevent the spread of disease (CDC, 2020).
- Minimize contact with other people and with animals. Stay at home and isolate yourself unless you need medical care. Use disposable tissues and discard them so that others will not come in contact with them.
- Do not share household items with other members of the family. Wash any dishes in hot soapy water.
- Wash your hands frequently and use disinfectant wipes to clean off exposed surfaces or those with which you had contact.
- Seek medical care for a high or persistent fever, persistent or productive cough with phlegm, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain. If you have a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or smoke or use vaping devices, seek care with the onset of symptoms.
- Wear a mask if you need to be around other people, such as in the doctor’s office or an emergency room or while in transit.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (14 February, 2020.) Interim Guidance for Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Homes and Residential Communities. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html.
Greatorex, J. S., Digard, P., Currant, M. D., et al. (2011.) Survival of Influenza A(H1N1) on Materials Found in Households: Implications for Infection Control. PLOS, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027932.
Jernigan, D. B., CDC COVID-19 Response Team (28 Feb., 2020.) Update: Public Health Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak — United States, February 24, 2020. MMWR Weekly, 69(8), 216–219.
Kramer, A., Schwebke, I., & Kampf, G. (2006). How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC infectious diseases, 6, 130. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2334-6-130.